A month with an Electric Car

Boone Guyton

  North Carolina dropped the tax credits for renewables for projects after 2015. This stuck us as a dumb move for jobs creation, staying ahead of the innovative curve, fighting climate change and empowering people in their energy choices. It did inspire us to go ahead with a plan to add 2.5 kw of solar onto our 3.8 kw existing  system. While our existing system produces a little more than we use in our house the added 2.5 kw we plan to use to charge an electric car and provide back up in case the grid goes down. 

Looking around at the state of the electric car world I couldn’t help but think that it was on the verge of becoming a lot better soon. ( The Chevy Bolt just revealed at the CES looks like a big improvement).  We shopped around and found we could get a low mileage used Nissan Leaf from the dealer for $10,500. We drove it, liked it and bought it. The first few trips were interesting or maybe anxious would be the right description. We live 12 miles outside of Asheville with some elevation changes on our route to town and most drives in the area. Our 2012 Leaf had 26,000 miles on it. New the range is advertised as 84 miles.  Those are clearly flat miles in a new car. Our Leaf charges only up to an average 75 miles of range as the battery looses some of its power with use. On a typical round trip to town, about 35  odometer miles with errands, the Leaf goes through about 45 miles of range and that is without running the cabin heater. If you run the heater to stay warm you loose another 5 miles of range.  One day of widespread errands I got home with 7 miles left. I got to experience the famous range anxiety. Leaf

  Now there are some things that help a lot. The seats and the steering wheel are heated and don’t reduce the range noticeably  which allows for a comfortable enough ride without the cabin heater on or on all the time for most trips. Also the feedback of range and driving style quickly lets you know how to get the most miles possible. Stops have no effect as there is no motor running and you never have to stop at a gas station or get an oil change. Also there are a few public charging stations around town where you could plug in for a fast charge giving you 80% in 30 minutes. So far we have not had to do that. 

  All in all we are now comfortable with how to drive and how far to expect to go. It is a nice car to drive  with lots of pick up and good balance for our curvy roads. The next generation  of Electric cars that will get more like 200 miles of range will relieve any anxiety for any local trips and even make a trip to Knoxville Tn or Charlotte NC doable.

We drove about 1000 miles over the month of December and our bill from Duke shows that we used 36 kilowatt hours more than we did last year in December. So we used a little more for our driving than we produced with our expanded solar system but this is during the shortest solar days of the year.  Hopefully with longer days we can generate as much solar electricity as we use to drive our LEAF.

Chevy Bolt  http://bit.ly/1UJoFDr

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